Renewing the New
"Connect. Inspire. Empower." When Orthodox Union's National Conference of Synagogue Youth boldly delivered this message to 50,000 alumni and past supporters on the carrier envelope of a late summer membership renewal campaign, its hope was that the slogan would help convey a sense of belonging and establish a greater connection between the member and the organization in its first-ever membership effort.
"Since this was the first time we did it, it has a lot of elements of an acquisitions campaign," says Rabbi Dave Felsenthal, director of alumni connections at Orthodox Union, the parent organization of NCSY, which is dedicated to enriching Jewish teens' heritage. "They've given us donations before, so we were calling it a renewal because we figured we'd get a better response-and it did impact the response."
But unlike a traditional acquisitions campaign, the organization reached out to members of its housefile who were already affiliated with the organization. "Most of them are alumni, and if they're not alumni, they've usually been involved with us in one way or another," explains Felsenthal.
For the first time ever, NCSY rolled out with a membership renewal effort that became the second in a series of three mailings the organization sends to segments of its housefile. Both the spring mailing-asking for support of summer programs-and the December mailing-requesting support for its ongoing programs-have historically been #10 packages with similar creative.
But for its newest mailing, the organization opted to scale down the carrier envelope's window to show only the 2009 membership card with the member's name and address-rather than a full-size window that typically is used to show artwork and premiums.
"I want them to know that there's a membership card inside, and from my experience with the community we're targeting, people like to be part of a membership, part of a group," says Jeffrey Fried, partner in ADM Processing, the firm that NCSY works with to develop its direct mail. "We just wanted the person to see [his] name on the membership card before he opens it. People tend not to throw that away; they tend to appreciate the card that has their name on it already, and it's almost as if we're assuming he's a donor, assuming he's a member. And people have responded to that kind of mail piece."
Taking the design a bit further with this package, Fried notes the decision to use a glossy, full-color envelope featuring the organization's slogan and photos of alumni, despite the additional cost. "If somebody is holding 10 envelopes in his hand, I want this envelope to be picked out," notes Fried. "I want his eyes to immediately go to that envelope. That was the idea behind the full-color, the color scheme and the glossy feel."
The color scheme and overall design remain consistent throughout the package with a full-color, one-page letter using language such as "member," "teammate" and "partner" to convey a sense of community within the organization's youth movement. "This package actually had a higher level [of creative] as far as the [four-color] letter matching the mailing," says Felsenthal. "We hadn't done that before." (Archive code #609-179876-0809)
Fried also points out that in past packages the letter's color scheme was more subdued, but he wanted to test something bold that better reflected the organization's slogan. "I felt that we had to enliven it a little bit and give it a little bit of character," he explains.
The detachable membership card appears beside a personalized renewal form that reminds the member of his past donation and asks to consider supporting the organization as a member for $36, a silver member for $54, a gold member for $100 or a platinum member for $360; it lists the premiums that the member is entitled to at each level. "We just want to create an actual membership and we want people to be members of our parent organization, so it's a natural fit," says Felsenthal. "You don't have to make a decision to become a member-you're already a member."
A decal premium featuring the organization's logo also was included in the package in an effort to do something similar to colleges, according to Felsenthal. "I wanted to do something collegian-colleges do very well with their alumni-so I'm trying to position ourselves in their minds as important as their colleges," notes Felsenthal.
And while Fried initially considered presenting the decal in the carrier's window, he opted to reveal the membership card instead. "I felt the decal was not personalized," says Fried, noting that by simply mentioning on the carrier that a decal was enclosed would have the same desired effect as showing it through the window. "I felt that the constituents they were going after would be more prone to respond to a membership card that has their name on it as opposed to a decal," says Fried. "I just felt that the membership card would be more of an envelope opener."
Although Felsenthal notes that this membership renewal mailing didn't do nearly as well as the organization's spring mailing, bringing in about $40,000 compared to $70,000, he is pleased with the results, citing a 4 percent to 6 percent response rate and a higher average gift than other campaigns. "Compared to the spring mailing, it didn't do anywhere near as well, but the economy in the spring and the economy now are night and day," explains Felsenthal. "It still did well-50,000 [mailed] and offhand I think we've had between 2,000 and 3,000 responses. It's still a nice response."
While future use of this membership renewal campaign depends on a variety of factors including the economy, Felsenthal notes that the organization may use it again. "We may change the language from the renewal campaign, and the parent organization might want us to differentiate a little bit more between membership in the parent organization and membership in the alumni association, but basically I would use the same thing again," concludes Felsenthal. "In general, I think the sincerity came across, and people responded well."
IDEA IN ACTION: Extra Effort for the Niche Market
When it comes to mailing to niche markets, it's a good idea to step up your stand-out-in-the-mailbox game. Getting noticed can be tricky-and requires some tricks-with small market segments that often are bombarded with mail. According to Jeffrey Fried, partner of ADM Processing-the firm that works with Orthodox Union to develop its direct mail campaigns-each direct mail piece sent to the audience of 250,000 Jews must stand out, or it risks being overlooked even in the hands of the best donors due to the abundance of mail this niche market receives. "The reason why we need to spend that kind of money on design is because we're targeting a very small population, and they're getting targeted by hundreds if not thousands of organizations a year," explains Fried.